Huskies Bring Hard Hats To Bye Week

SEATTLE - Washington wanted to thank those involved in the construction of the newly renovated Husky Stadium, so they brought all the workers out to lead the team onto the field before they would eventually destroy Boise State 38-6 Saturday night. Some of the players took the workers' hard hats with them as the team was back at it 36 hours later - even though they don't play a team this weekend.

"That's the whole theme for the team - there's a lot for us to work on," UW Head Coach Steve Sarkisian told the media on Monday. "It's a nice win for us but there's a lot for us to go back to work on. We had the shoulder pads and helmets on the Monday after a game."

But why? Why not let the feeling of a huge win - one that catapulted the Huskies into a top-25 ranking for the first time since last season's win over Stanford - wash over the team while they had some time to catch their breath?

Here's why: That feeling lasted just one week before Oregon blasted UW 52-21, hurtling the Huskies back down to earth. Washington has been ranked on three separate occasions under Sarkisian, for one week each. Now that the Huskies are ranked 20th in the AP and 23rd in the USA Today poll, there's every expectation they won't fall out of their ranking by the time they play their next game - at Illinois September 14th.

But Sark isn't interested in any of that. He's much more interested on what he and his staff can control. "We all have stuff to work on, myself included," he said, noting the fourth down call that stuffed a promising early drive for UW Saturday night ('That's probably just me being stubborn'), as well as a decision to punt at the Boise State 37 in the second quarter instead of allowing senior placekicker Travis Coons an opportunity to try a 54-yard field goal.

Sarkisian feels the early bye will do nothing but benefit his team going forward.

"I love having the bye week this early," he said. "I think it was a perfect setup. You play that first game, you focus on it, and then you come out of that first game with a list of bullet points of things to get better at. You work on that this week and then get ready for Illinois next week."

One of the big points of emphasis this week will be identifying and incorporating more impact special teamers into the mix that aren't offensive or defensive starters.

"We played a lot of front-line starters on special teams and we need some others to push to the forefront so I don't have Will Shamburger, Sean Parker, Shaq Thompson, Princeton Fuimaono starting on every team," Sarkisian said. "We need some of our depth guys to step up and be front-line starters on special teams."

Offensively, it was easy to point to eight penalties as a source of frustration.

"We had a couple of false starts at the beginning of series that should never happen," Sarkisian said. "But all-in-all for the first time doing it, there was some uncertainty but it really worked out well. I'm proud of the guys for embracing the change and then applying it when game day came around.

"I thought we really overcame some of our shortcomings that really affected us a year ago. If we got a holding penalty a year ago it was like we might as well punt on second down. We were so handcuffed after that. But Saturday night we got holding penalties but we just kept playing, kept converting on third down and kept making our plays to keep drives alive."

Defensive Coordinator Justin Wilcox was banging the same drum when it came time to talk about his unit and keeping their effort versus the Broncos in perspective.

"Anytime you win a game, you're going to take it however you can get it," he said. "A win is the number-one thing. We were fortunate to play well enough to win. But we didn't go to our meetings and everyone was patting each other on the back. We're going to tell them when they do things right, tell them great job…but when they're wrong we're going to tell them when they're wrong and then we're going to show them how to do it right."

Wilcox pointed to 17 missed tackles during the BSU game. That came on 88 total offensive plays run by the Broncos - a really high number, considering the Huskies only gave up two plays over 15 yards - but Wilcox wasn't as concerned Tuesday with what went right.

He was pointing the finger squarely at himself.

"The run game at times was okay, and there were times where we didn't tackle very well," he said, adding that he would make sure bag and sled drills this week would hammer home the idea of having great technique as a foundation for consistent tackling even when they aren't practicing in full pads.

"When you get tired technique is what saves you on those long drives," Wilcox added. "That will be an emphasis this week, next week, and throughout the season. You can't let something go on the film just because it wasn't exploited. The next time it happens, it's a touchdown. So those are the things we've got to be extremely detailed on. Those are things we have to clean up."

Secondary Coach Keith Heyward reiterated Wilcox's thoughts on technique. The defensive backs held Boise State's Joe Southwick to 152 yards on 25 completions and also had one interception.

We did a lot of good things," he said. "One hundred and seventy-five yards passing is pretty reasonable. The guys played well, they executed the plan. But when they went no-huddle and drives got long sometimes our body position and our execution of our technique got a little sloppy. We have the bye week to prepare and correct some of those things and get ready for Illinois."

Talking to the players, it's clear the hard hat mentality has already filtered down through the roster.

"That's the standard that we've set," said senior quarterback Keith Price. "We're supposed to go out and perform like that. It was a good win, but now it's time to get back on the horse."

"All it did was raise the bar a little higher for our team," added junior linebacker John Timu. "After watching the film there's a lot of things to clean up with tackling and communication. But it was a great overall effort for us.

"But the 24 hour rule is in place. Whatever happened last week happened and it's done with, so now we move on and focus on Illinois."


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